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Being a pet parent means keeping an eye on your pets and taking them to the vet when there's something wrong. Unfortunately, it can be hard to figure out what's wrong with your cat when they're acting weird, especially if you've been at work all day.
If your cat is acting strangely, they might have gotten into poison or plants toxic to cats. Rat poison and other household poisons can cause a wide range of symptoms that leave your furry friend feeling sick and lethargic.
So, can rat poison kill cats? Is rat poison safe to use around cats? Learn more about cats and rat poisoning, including the early symptoms of rat poisoning in cats. You can use the links below to skip ahead if you're looking for something specific.
- How Do Cats Get Exposed To Rat Poison?
- Common Types Of Rat Poison
- Symptoms Of Rat Poisoning In Cats
- Immediate Actions To Take
- Diagnosis And Treatment
- Prevention And Safety Measures
- Final Notes
How Do Cats Get Exposed To Rat Poison?
Ingesting poisoned rats is one of the most common reasons cats get exposed to rat poison. Cats love to chase mice and rats, and they'll even pick them up and leave them at your doorstep sometimes. If you or a neighbor uses rat poison to put a stop to your rat problem, your cat could accidentally ingest rat poison when they're out hunting.
If you used rat poison to treat a specific area — like your garage or basement — your cat can also ingest poison by licking the area or grooming themselves after coming into contact with rat poison.
In rare cases, cats may directly ingest rat poison, which can lead to vomiting and other symptoms.
Common Types Of Rat Poison
There are several types of rat poison you can buy at the store, and your cat's symptoms will vary depending on what type of poison they ingested. Here's what you need to know about the different types of rat poisoning in cats.
Anticoagulant rodenticides are poisons that kill rats by changing the blood clotting process. Warfarin is the most popular anticoagulant rodenticide, but there are several varieties. Some anticoagulant rodenticides are highly toxic in small doses, while cats need to ingest larger amounts of other anticoagulant poisons to experience symptoms.1
If your cat gets into an anticoagulant rodenticide, you may notice blood in stool and urine or bleeding from the gums. Your vet can help you figure out the best treatment options based on your cat's medical history and the severity of their symptoms.
Bromethalin isn't an anticoagulant rodenticide, which means it causes slightly different symptoms in cats and dogs. If your cat ingests bromethalin — even a small amount — it can lead to seizures, muscle tremors, and other similar symptoms.
Cats who get into bromethalin may have swelling of the brain. While small doses of this rodenticide can be toxic to your pets, your vet can help you manage symptoms and get your cat healthy again.1
Cholecalciferol is a rodenticide that increases calcium levels in the blood, which can cause the soft tissues in your cat's body to calcify and harden. Cholecalciferol toxicity typically leads to symptoms in 18 to 36 hours, which include increased urination and excessive thirst. Increasing levels of calcium in the blood cause symptoms to get more severe as time goes on.
With cholecalciferol toxicity, the main goal is removing the poison from your cat's stomach. Your vet may also recommend monitoring blood calcium levels for a couple of weeks after treatment.1
Zinc phosphide is a type of rodenticide that comes in the form of small pellets, which can make it hard to distinguish from other types of animal feed. When this rodenticide comes into contact with stomach acid, it creates phosphine gas, leading to fluid in the lungs.
Difficulty breathing is the primary sign of this toxicity. If your cat got into a zinc phosphide rodenticide, you should take them to the vet right away.1
Symptoms Of Rat Poisoning In Cats
Your job as a pet parent is to keep an eye out for symptoms that tell you your cat isn't feeling well. If you notice your cat acting strangely, call your vet or take your cat in. So, what are the symptoms of rat poisoning in a cat? Here's everything you need to know to keep your cat safe.
Early Signs And General Symptoms
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy and weakness
- Increased thirst and urination
Specific Symptoms Based On The Type Of Rat Poison Ingested
- Anticoagulant rodenticides: Cats who ingest anticoagulant rat poisoning may experience blood loss, blood clots in the tissue, and bleeding into urine, eyes, lungs, and the GI tract. Other symptoms may include weakness, lack of coordination, depression, and loss of appetite.1
- Bromethalin: If your cat ingested bromethalin, you may notice vomiting, depression, tremors, and difficulty standing.1
- Cholecalciferol: Cholecalciferol leads to symptoms such as depression, loss of appetite, increased urination, vomiting blood, and bloody diarrhea.1
- Zinc phosphide: Zinc phosphide can lead to vomiting, abdominal pain, depression, difficulty breathing, and convulsions.1
Immediate Actions To Take
If you think your cat ingested rat poison or something else that's toxic to cats, the first thing you should do is call your vet or an emergency animal clinic in your area. During your call, you should talk about the symptoms your cat is experiencing and what rodenticide or toxic plant they may have been exposed to. Avoid treating rat poisoning at home and get your cat medical attention as soon as possible.
Diagnosis And Treatment
The first step in treating rat poisoning in cats is diagnosing it. Vets may use a physical exam and blood tests to diagnose rat poisoning in cats and determine the severity of symptoms. Rat poisoning in cats treatment varies based on the type of rat poison your cat ingested, but may include:
- Inducing vomiting
- Administering vitamin K to treat anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning
- Supportive care to manage symptoms
- Hospitalization or intensive care if symptoms are severe or aren't improving
Prevention And Safety Measures
There are several things you can do as a pet parent to make sure your cat doesn't ingest anything poisonous. It's up to you to make sure you're creating a safe environment for your pets.
Keeping cats indoors is a smart way to keep them safe. When you take your cat outside, keep an eye on them to make sure they're not getting into anything they shouldn't be.
If you have rat poisoning around the house, keep it somewhere safe and make sure you use it in spots where your cat isn’t able to gain access to it. Even better, you can look into alternative rodent control methods that don't involve harmful poisons.
How quickly do symptoms of rat poisoning appear in cats?
Symptoms of rat poisoning in cats may take anywhere from a few hours to several days to appear. The time it takes for symptoms to appear varies based on the rodenticide your cat ingests. If you think your cat may have gotten into something, you should call your vet to talk about symptoms and figure out what to do next.
Can I treat rat poisoning in cats at home?
Rat poisoning in cats isn't something you can treat at home. Rodenticides can be fatal to cats depending on the dose and type of rodenticide, and early treatment is key. If your cat is showing symptoms of rat poisoning, call a vet or visit an emergency animal clinic as soon as possible.
Are there any long-term effects of rat poisoning on cats?
Rat poisoning in cats can cause long-term effects depending on the type of rat poisoning, the amount ingested, and how quickly you take your cat to the vet. Severe poisoning or poisoning that's not treated quickly can lead to organ damage and other complications.
Taking care of your cat is a lot of work, especially if they have a tendency to explore and get into things they shouldn't. Rodenticides can be very harmful to cats, leading to a long list of symptoms that can be fatal if left untreated. If you think your cat got into something toxic, you should call or visit a vet as soon as possible.
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Khan, Safdar A. and Schell, Mary M. "Rodenticide Poisoning." Merck Veterinary Manual. Nov 2022. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-pet-topics/poisoning/rodenticide-poisoning.